Tag Archives: vacation

Myrtle Beach

I went to Myrtle Beach this week, a vacation I had planned well before I got laid off.  I was looking forward to it, to the relaxation of the ocean.  Of course, it was overcast both full days I was there, and sunny the day I got in and the day I left, but I love the beach anytime, cold, warm, dry or wet.  Actually, it’s better cold and wet, because there are fewer people out there.  You can stand at the waters edge, look out at the waves rolling in, and imagine it’s just you and the ocean.

Of course, when it rains while you’re walking on the beach, and you’re still half a mile from your hotel, it really is just you and the water.

And I am very much a water person, so I was a happy camper.

The drive is always…interesting.  I always get lost, and this time was no exception.  Question:  if you see a road sign that says “Darlington- that way,” and you drive that way and come to a T in the road, shouldn’t there be another sign saying, “Darlington- that way”?  Grrrrrr.

Did you miss me?

I was completely offline from the 11th through the 18th, and I’ve just been lazy since then.

Yes, offline. No cell phone, no internet, no email, nothing. It was quite lovely. What was I doing?

I was on a cruise – my first – and I enjoyed every freaking minute of it.

I flew into Miami on Saturday and met my mom. Our cruise didn’t leave until Sunday, so we stayed at the Hilton downtown on Saturday night. I had found a restaurant online that looked good – Bin No 18 – but wasn’t sure that we were dressed well enough, so we asked the concierge to recommend a nearby restaurant. Lo and behold, he recommended Bin No 18, and assured us that it was very casual, and we were dressed fine. We walked the two blocks to the restaurant, found that it was, indeed, very casual, but the food was amazing, as was the wine and beer list. (I only recognized 4 beers out about 40 on the beer list, if that tells you anything.) Mom and I split the Scottish Salmon Tartar, Seared Sea Scallops, and Bruschetta di Eggplant, and each one was delicious. Mom’s favorite was the salmon, I think my favorite was the scallops.

For breakfast Sunday, we went to this cool little diner called S&S Diner, pretty much around the corner from Bin No 18. It was about 20 barstools around a kitchen, and it was darn good. Also recommended by the concierge. Then on to the Port of Miami about noon to get on the ship. It was a surprisingly smooth process. Our room was at the front of the ship, right above the first break on the water, so with the balcony door open (which it pretty much was full time) it sounded like waves crashing at the beach. Both mom and I slept incredibly well the whole time we were on board.

We departed the port about 4:30 Sunday evening, and spent Monday at sea. We laid out by the pool for a bit, then went to a martini tasting. We got seven different martini’s – only 3 oz each, but 7×3 equals enough to get my mother tipsy, which was quite comical.

Tuesday morning we arrived in Grand Cayman, and took tender boats to the mainland. Mom and I had decided on the “Island Tour and Underwater Observatory” excursion…I wish we had gone snorkeling instead. The tour itself was fine – we stopped at the Turtle Farm, which was really cool, and the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory, and went to Hell (and back), and our tour bus driver was very nice. But the “underwater observatory” ended up being a glass-bottom boat, rather than the underwater tunnel mother thought it was, and it was really crappy. Then we went into a couple of shops along the docks, which were all tourist traps, and it just all felt so…touristy. And I hate touristy.

The turtle farm was quite neat, though, and I’m glad we got to go there.   We got to hold a little baby sea turtle – isn’t he cute? Supposedly, if they flap, you should run under their chin to make them stop, to calm them. I personally believe the rub feels good, so they flap on purpose.

Wednesday morning we anchored off Cozumel. Mom and I took a ferry over to Playa del Carmen and took a tour bus to Tulum, which I was really excited about. I had wanted to go to Tulum when I was in Mexico several years ago, but didn’t get the chance. As I didn’t ever really want to go back to the Yucatan again, I figured I had lost my chance. Because it was one of the shore excursions offered by the cruise line, I jumped at my chance this time, even though it was a 45 minute ferry ride followed by an hour bus ride, one way. That meant we only had a couple of hours there, but I don’t care. It was really neat.

The minute we pulled anchor Wednesday night, and all day Thursday, we could really feel the boat move. The water was rough, and it was pretty windy out. But it was still sunny, so I took advantage of that and laid out for a while. Most of Thursday was spent lazing around, wishing I could live on a cruise ship. I absolutely loved my first cruise, and I want to go again as soon as I can.

It wasn’t all great. The food was kind of hit or miss – I had some fabulous tilapia, and their Indian fare was great (as was breakfast), but a lot of the food was kind of…meh…and the lobster ravioli was really not good. Norwegian is all about “freestyle,” where you can eat wherever and whenever you want. However, often, at regular eating times (6pm, 11am), they’re “all hours” café was all but shut down. If you wanted a hot dog, you were golden, otherwise…not so much. The other bad? While I slept great every night there, I woke up Friday morning with a sore back and hip, which progressed through the next 48 hours into shooting pain down my leg. I think I managed to pinch my sciatic nerve, or something. I’m finally starting to feel better, but Saturday I was in absolute pain. So the bed must not have been that great.

Our room was always super clean, with clean towels every time we turned around. There was a ton of stuff to do, the staff was all super nice. You could almost always get drink specials – $4.25 margaritas or Bloody Mary’s or something else, so they’re not ripping you on the alcohol. We didn’t even venture down to the casino, didn’t even know where it was until the last day. The sushi restaurant was okay – not outstanding, but it was fine. And, of course, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

We arrived in Miami on Friday to rain. (We later found out that parts of Miami were completely flooded, and some people were using kayaks to get around.) Both mom and I caught our flights without any problems, and there were no delays, which was great, considering most of the east coast got hit hard with snow and ice. Of course, arriving back in Charlotte to 30 degrees and rain/sleet was quite a downer, after the gorgeous weather on the trip. But I’m going to try not to complain too much….

I’ve just been playing catch up since then, doing laundry, wrapping Christmas gifts, watching tivo’d shows.

Back to reality.

Weekend Trip

I looked at the US Airways e-savers today, and saw that Washington DC is on special for $83 each way.  I’ve always wanted to go to DC, so I’m going to go.  It’s supposed to be rainy on Saturday, but Sunday and Monday are sunny with highs in the low 60’s.  Should be fabulous.

Of course I want to walk through the Mall, and go to the Vietnam Memorial.  Maybe the National Arboretum?  The Smithsonian Institute, obviously.  The National Gallery of Art.  Is the Aquarium any good?  Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Where else should I go?  Who’s been and can give tips?

Okay, so I’m not really going to DC this weekend.  It is on e-saver, and it is a great deal.  And one day, I hope to go.  So go ahead and leave your suggestions for where to go and what to do in DC, for future reference.

Tahoe, Part 4

Good Times

Saturday

I got up early, well before everyone else, and went to the beach. I love, love, love the beach when no one else is there. Cool sand between your toes, and the only noise is the lap of the waves against the shore. I walked barefoot for a while, and took a couple of pictures.

Lake Tahoe July 2009 006  

My attempt at rock balancing

My attempt at rock balancing

Later, the group decided to go to the beach, so off we trekked. We went to Zephyr Beach, on the NV side, and it was beautiful. We decided to get a drink before finding a spot on the beach, and Mr. EoftheW scored a table under an umbrella for us. We all got a boat drink, and instantly decided to stay under the umbrella all day.

Under the Umbrella

 

Sunday

We decided that, since we had lounged around yesterday, we should go out and get some exercise today. We headed out to Emerald Bay State Park and did a couple of hikes. One was just a quarter mile trail, down to a view of Eagle Falls.

Falls 4

The second, we walked down a mile to Vikingsholm, “one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.” 

Lake Tahoe July 2009 109

Vikingsholm 7

Vikingsholm 4

Sod Roof

Sod Roof

Learn more about Vikingsholm here

I’ll post some “pretty” pictures next!  Stay tuned!

Tahoe, Part 2

Travel Fun

We were supposed to leave Thursday night, on a direct flight from CLT to Sacramento, arriving at 11:30 Thursday night. We were going to stay the night in Sacramento and drive in to Tahoe Friday morning. The Pilot worked all day Thursday and got caught in some storms. “It’s okay,” he said. “We’ll take a flight to Reno in the morning.”

Now, I was slightly panicked, based on my aforementioned OCPD tendencies. But I had faith that everything would work out.

Our flight Friday left at 7:30am, connecting through PHX, arriving in Reno at 11:30 am. Perfect, I thought. We could have a leisurely lunch, enjoy our drive into Tahoe, check into the hotel with enough time to shower, and make the boat in plenty of time.

The flight took off on time, and we were on our way. My ears were popping weird, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have a problem the whole flight – that would suck. But, no.

“We’re having a problem with the cabin pressure, we need to turn around and go back to Charlotte.” So, an hour after takeoff, we landed back in CLT. Since our connection through PHX was just over an hour, we’ve now missed our connection. We might be able to get another one, though, so I’m not worried yet.

Except, instead of switching planes in Charlotte, as I expected, the flight was cancelled. The Pilot says we still have one chance, and if it doesn’t pan out, we’re screwed. We hightail it over to the San Francisco gate, which was boarding in about half an hour, and he sweet talks us onto the flight. It was due to arrive in SF at 11:30am, and the 200 mile drive should take us about 3 ½ hours, so we should still be good. Cross your fingers.

The flight was uneventful, but arrived a little late due to us being 15th in line for takeoff, and a “strong, unexpected headwind.” We got in just before 1, and booked it to the car rental. The Pilot throws his crew badge to me and asks me to take care of the rental car, he had a phone call to make. I get the car, no problem…but now can’t find him!

Finally, he walks out. And says he has to go back to Charlotte.

“Why?”

“My uncle died.”

Well, shit.

Stay tuned for Part 3

It could be worse

I get five weeks (25 days) of time off each year.  That includes vacation, sick time, personal days, etc.  Last year it was four weeks, but when I hit the 5 year mark with the company, I got an extra week. 

20 days is about average, at least in my experience.  In past jobs, I’ve usually had 2 weeks (10 days) vacation, plus  5 sick days, plus 3 personal days, plus some “non-premium” holidays, such as MLK or Columbus Day or the day after Thanksgiving.  So, my 20 days last year was about average, considering I only get 6 major holidays – and that does not include the Friday after Thanksgiving, which kind of sucks. 

Today, all full time employees got an additional 5 days off.  Without pay.  They’re reducing our hourly wage by 10% across a ten week span, then it will go back to normal.  In return, we get 5 days (40 hours) of extra “vacation.”  These days have to be used in the same ten week period.

I worked it out, and it’s essentially a 4.5% pay cut for the year.  It sucks, but it’s not awful.  It’s not a 10% pay cut, period.  It’s not a layoff.  The money I will be losing was just the right amount to pay off my Lasik surgery, which sucks, but, what can you do. 

I’m still making more than I was a year ago.  I still have a job.  And I get a total of six weeks of vacation this year.

It could be worse.  I know.  And I’m not complaining.